Victims of rape might have to find alternate sources of help

Last year alone there were 247,730 victims of rape in this country. That’s 20,644 a month, 4,764 a week, 680 a day and 28 an hour. According to Safe Campus Now “one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. In 2001, nine out of ten rape victims were female, one out of every eight college women will be raped, and a total of 17.7 million women have been victims of these crimes.” Although much less attention is paid to male rape, it has been estimated that as many as one in seven men will be the victim of some form of sexual assault in their lifetime.

At this University last year there were 8 reported sexual assaults, and there have been 4 more reported this year. As a result of a sexual assault the individual has an increased chance of developing a chemical dependency as well as developing serious health problems, both physical and mental. So, why is it that knowing what we know, funding is being cut from programs that help those who have been the victims of sexual assault?

Recently Victims’ Services of Wood County lost a major grant and is now facing a financial crisis. Victims’ Services offers such essential programs as the Sexual Assault Awareness for Empowerment Program (SAAFE), the Violence Intervention to Advocate Lifechoices (VITAL) and the Therapeutic Individualized Postvention Project (TIP). However, as a result of the loss in funding these programs are facing massive cuts. Full time positions at the VITAL Program have been reduced to half time positions, the TIP Project was cut in half, and the SAAFE Program must now do almost constant fund raising. These programs are hardly what could be considered government work; rather they offer much needed aid and counsel to those in a time of crisis.

To really understand what these programs do, it is important to take a look at their mission statements. The purpose of the SAAFE Program is to provide “empowerment for the victim/survivor by providing options to enable the person to make their own choices.” To this end the SAAFE Program provides “advocates who will meet a sexual assault victim at the hospital, police station or any safe location to offer assistance. They work primarily with adults, but will also help teenagers assaulted by acquaintances. The advocates stay in contact with the victim and offer emotional support when the client wants to talk about their concerns and/or has more questions.” In addition, the advocates help the victim/survivor along the way should the attack be taken to court, as well as help arrange support groups. Yet somehow this isn’t considered a “mental health service.” Well if this doesn’t qualify as a “mental health service” what does?

While I’m not necessarily advocating giving the SAAFE Program a blank check, the question must be asked: would that be such a terrible idea? This is an organization staffed by a large amount of volunteers; volunteers who take time out to offer a service that is desperately needed. These same volunteers who do this important work — with little to no recognition it should be noted — are now being asked to spend even more time raising money so that they can continue to be volunteers. Rather than devoting their full time and energy to serving as advocates, members of the SAAFE Program are now working to staff monthly Burger King Nights, garage sales and such internal fund raisers as selling vouchers to family members.

This campus rallies around such charitable events like Dance Marathon; why is it then that the hard work done by those at the SAAFE Program goes largely underappreciated or outright ignored? Is it because we as a society are uncomfortable with the subject of rape?

Well, comfortable or not this is not a topic that can simply be ignored nor is this a group whose importance can be marginalized. As hard as it is to think about, there is an excellent chance somebody you know has been the victim of a sexual assault. These people are our sisters, our friends, our partners, our mothers or our brothers. The least we can do is ensure that every one of these 247,730 people has a chance to get the support they need.

So, the next time you see the SAAFE Program advertising a fundraiser, take a minute and contribute. It is absolutely crucial that this program be maintained, and it is unfair as a community to place the burden solely on those already volunteering.